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Thread: Japanese acting

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  1. #1
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    Angry Japanese acting

    So, I have always been a bit of a nerd, with a great love for anime, manga, videogames, etc... This has caused me to be very interested in Japanese culture as a child and as a result, I have seen numerous Japanese movies thoughout the years. However, I have recently decided against ever watching a Japanese movie again... The acting is always, without exception, horrible, regardless of how well-received the movie is... How come the acting is so bad in Japanese cinema? Is it because acting isn't a big thing in Japan in general, perhaps? It makes no sense to me... I don't like Indian movies either, as I hate musicals, but at least the Indians can make their acting seem somewhat believable...

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Theigno's Avatar
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    I wouldn't call it universally bad just... very stylized in general.
    Japan has some very polarized cultural influences when it comes to art. You get the super contemplative dramas where everything is incredibly subdued and actors generally act very stoic. There's a big emphasis on calm and even melancholy in this sort of art, it's clearly not how people actually behave but from a cultural view it represents an ideal.
    On the other side there's super over-the-top stuff where all emotions are let loose everything is super dramatic and so on. That style is more of a development on Japanese Theater that is, again very stylized (Noh might be for example more subdued than the literal song and dance spectacle of kabuki, everything is portrayed in a highly symbolic visually based style that's very different from western acting). And "realistic" acting didn't get into japan until very late, like many other things, so it shouldn't be a surprise that influences still remain (Much of the stylized visual storytelling in anime can for example be traced to the same sources).
    So as usual with cultural things, one shouldn't be too eager to judge.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Theigno View Post
    I wouldn't call it universally bad just... very stylized in general.
    Japan has some very polarized cultural influences when it comes to art. You get the super contemplative dramas where everything is incredibly subdued and actors generally act very stoic. There's a big emphasis on calm and even melancholy in this sort of art, it's clearly not how people actually behave but from a cultural view it represents an ideal.
    On the other side there's super over-the-top stuff where all emotions are let loose everything is super dramatic and so on. That style is more of a development on Japanese Theater that is, again very stylized (Noh might be for example more subdued than the literal song and dance spectacle of kabuki, everything is portrayed in a highly symbolic visually based style that's very different from western acting). And "realistic" acting didn't get into japan until very late, like many other things, so it shouldn't be a surprise that influences still remain (Much of the stylized visual storytelling in anime can for example be traced to the same sources).
    So as usual with cultural things, one shouldn't be too eager to judge.
    I have been very eager not to judge, TBH... I have kept looking and looking to find that one Japanese movie with good acting... I have seen everything from love dramas, crime dramas, anime adaptions, kaiju movies, samurai movies, etc... During my entire journey through Japanese cinema, I found only one movie which I actually considered an okay movie. That one was Koizora. Not a good movie by American standards, but I consider it leagues above the majority of Japanese cinema. If one likes Japanese movies, that would be my one recommendation. Koizora won't make you cringe at the acting too often and the story itself is actually pretty good.

    I thank you for the detailed answer and I look very much forward to the day when Japanese acting will reach a respectable level. We already know from manga and anime that they have an awesome fantasy over there, so with the correct acting skills, they may end up making some epic fantasy/science fiction movies in the future.

  4. #4
    I'm going digital McGann's Avatar
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    I haven't seen a great deal of Japanese cinema. I've certainly noticed the lean towards stylised, almost theatre, acting that you and TMS have noted. But in recent memory I watched the Live Action adaptation of Bleach on Netflix. I recall that being relatively subdued. I really liked Ichigo's actor, especially when he's looking worried or perplexed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by McGann View Post
    I haven't seen a great deal of Japanese cinema. I've certainly noticed the lean towards stylised, almost theatre, acting that you and TMS have noted. But in recent memory I watched the Live Action adaptation of Bleach on Netflix. I recall that being relatively subdued. I really liked Ichigo's actor, especially when he's looking worried or perplexed.
    I went to IMDB to check up on the Bleach movie. I checked up on the first user review which popped up and it likewise praised the actors. While not a Bleach fan, you have caught my interest so that I just may check it out. If I remember correctly, the Death Note movies were not that bad.

  6. #6
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    Certainly better then the US one on Netflix but that's not really fair. But yeah, try that. The actor of Ichigo was in a different show where he played a different kind of character. ...It was a kid's show but still.

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    I just watched the three original Death Note movies the last few nights (so much for never seeing a Japanese movie again, lol). While all three movies were plagued by the stereotypical Japanese acting, they were actually fairly entertaining. Well, except for the last one... It could have been so much better, I liked the concept of L doing something meaningful with his last days, but there was too much stupidity in the movie for my taste...

    Tonight, I will watch the American version of Death Note and tomorrow night, I will watch the Bleach movie. I will return with my opinion afterwards.
    If people can recommend me some good anime adaptions, I'm willing to give them a try.

    EDIT: I have now seen the American version of Death Note. Yeah, it wasn't as good as the Japanese version, but I don't think it was much worse. It was an okay movie, nohing special (Light's screams were straight up horrible, though). Next watch: Bleach.
    Last edited by Jon Snow; 06-12-2019 at 05:14 AM.

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